During April's monthly editorial planning meeting, AAP's 2018-19 Federal Budget Coverage was high on the Agenda. It's a huge task. Last year, AAP filed a total of 68 stories, 60 images, 10 (edited) video clips, 3 explainers and a dozen flat graphics. In order to produce this volume of coverage, AAP sends a large, experienced journalistic team. This year is no exception, there will be 23 AAP journalists in the lock-up, translating the facts and figures of Treasurer Scott Morrison's budget for the Australian public, ready to be sent down the wire, minutes after the lock-up ends.
Last year, AAP Journalist, Steven Jancetic, experienced the lock-up for the first time. He recounts his experience below.
When your entire journalistic life has been more football than fiscal policy, being told you’re headed to Canberra to cover the federal budget is about as daunting as it gets.
For a sports reporter, the federal budget has always held mythical qualities - it’s that beast you hear about once a year that sends the office into a frenzy and systems into meltdown.
But here I was, on my way to Canberra, with one common message ringing in my ears.
“Remember - no phones, no internet.”
There’s the wait outside the lock-up, suits everywhere … “wait, why is Peter Helliar wearing some 1980s Australia tracksuit” … before the doors are unlocked and the herd makes its way in.
The Budget is a thick book, a daunting batch of numbers and words that resemble that maths text book you get on on the first day of high school. What have I gotten myself into? Thank god for the Budget Overview.
Tasked with creating visual explainers, there are so many numbers, you don’t know where to start. Thankfully, there’s plenty of wise heads amongst the AAP team. “These ones, these ones and that one - they’re the ones that matter,” a reassuring voice offers. Thanks.
First some food, then down to work. The spread is amazing. Budget cakes - who knew there was such a thing?
You get down to churning it out. Next thing you know, it’s done.
Wait, what? Where did those six hours go?
You walk out, a little frazzled, a lot exhausted. “Hey Steve, how did you find your first Budget?” comes the query from AAP Editor and lock-up veteran Mike Osborne. “Like the last ten minutes of a golden point grand final stretched out over six hours,” I reply. Back to AAP’s Canberra office for a bit of tidying up, the scene is reminiscent of a football locker room. Plenty of weary bodies, many in need of a stiff drink.
“Now that you’ve got the first one out of the way, you’ll be ready to go next year,” Osborne declares.
Bring it on.
View AAP 2018-19 Federal Budget Coverage Guide here.